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APRIL CONTENTS 2019 • VOLUME 16 • NO. 4

features

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What You Need to Know About European River Cruises

The Ultimate Vacation Cruising the Greek Islands

Florida’s “Other” Keys Perdido, Cedar, and Lido

departments 14 Living Well Distracted Driving

42 On the Road Again Cape Girardeau, Missouri

18 Notables Melinda McGrath

44 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown Christie Cookies

22 Exploring Art Easter Egg Traditions

70 Southern Gentleman Pack Like a Pro

26 Exploring Books This is My South

72 Southern Harmony Ashley McBryde

30 Southern Roots Garden Preparations

76 In Good Spirits Blueberry Mojito

34 Table Talk Mississippi Bar Kitchen 38 Exploring Destinations South’s Best Music Fests

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78 Exploring Events 80 Reflections Choose to Go

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editor’s note | APRIL

Exploring Our World No matter where you go, you are bound to find someone or something Southern. This spring, I felt like I was finding home everywhere I went. At least, that’s the way it seemed as we put together DeSoto Magazine’s annual travel issue. I met Jennie Curlee, PR director for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Amanda Murphy of Tennessee Tourism at Travel South USA, an annual event that showcases regional travel. These two dynamic women made me feel right at home in the busy Myrtle Beach, S.C., convention center as we talked about our favorite Southern destinations. Judy and Len Garrison found a big taste of the South in Amsterdam, Netherlands, at the Mississippi Bar Kitchen where they ate for this month’s Table Talk. While in Budapest, Hungary, I was near Elvis Presley Park on the banks of the Danube River and where plans are underway for a statue of The King. Presley voiced his support for the 1956 Hungarian Uprising on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Hungarians have never forgotten him. Cruising is one of the most popular vacations, and we’ve included two that readers often say are on their bucket lists. Debi Lander explored the Greek Islands while I journeyed along the Danube River. We hope our stories will help you plan your own cruise vacations. If this is your year to stay closer to home, I can’t think of any better places to relax than the towns

APRIL 2019 • Vol. 16 No.4

PUBLISHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Adam Mitchell PUBLISHER & ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Paula Mitchell MANAGING EDITOR Mary Ann DeSantis ASSISTANT EDITOR Andrea Brown Ross ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Bridgett Jordan CONTRIBUTORS Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Judy Garrison

around the Gulf of Mexico, particularly Florida’s “other” keys: Perdido, Cedar, and Lido. Whether you are an armchair traveler or an explorer looking for new adventures, we think you’ll sail through the pages of this issue with a smile and maybe a touch of wanderlust. Happy reading!

Mary Ann on the cover

Viking’s Danube Waltz route along Europe’s Danube River includes everything travelers hope to see: historic buildings and landmarks, castles, and scenic panorama views like this one in Dürnstein, Austria.

Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises.

Jill Gleeson Michelle Keller Debi Lander Andrea Brown Ross Karon Warren Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com SUBSCRIBE: DeSotoMagazine.com/subscribe

DeSotoMagazine.com ©2019 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email paula@desotomag.com or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well | DISTRACTED DRIVING

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Distracted Driving By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of americansafetycouncil.com

Road trips create lasting memories, but don’t let distracted driving turn your trip into a nightmare. Traveling by car to your favorite destination or to a new adventure can provide a budget-friendly and memorable experience. However, the dangers of distracted driving can make what could have been a fun trip into a personal version of “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. What is distracted driving? For many people, the use of cell phones while driving would be the most common response. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation

system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.” Traffic around popular destinations can become congested, particularly along the beach. Think 30A in Destin, Florida. Inching along a roadway can make it tempting to take your eyes off the road. The glistening ocean water, the sandy beach, and the babes in bikinis can cause heads to turn from the traffic to the sights. While a minor fender bender doesn’t necessarily ruin a vacation, distracted driving can potentially have fatal consequences. In 2017, there were 3,166 reported cases of distracted driving fatalities according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. DeSoto 17


Likewise, traveling to sights unseen, carries its own hazards. Traveling in unfamiliar cities, or rural areas makes it tempting to rely on electronic navigation systems. As anxiety and frustration grow from not being able to locate an exit or destination, drivers often become distracted trying to re-establish their route as dictated by the latest technology. Relying on technology can be a help or a hindrance. It’s beneficial to review alternate routes to a destination before getting behind the wheel. In today’s fast-paced society, multi-tasking has become a way of life – even inside our vehicles. The National Safety Council (NSC) counters that “multitasking is a myth.” Our brains are actually only capable of doing one task at a time. Thus, relying on a hands-free cellular device is not as safe as many drivers may think. Numerous studies have concluded that most drivers acknowledge the dangers of using a cellphone while driving, but many downplay their personal risk and erroneously believe a hands-free device is a safer alternative. The NSC cautions the use of hands-free devices, citing the risk of “cognitive distraction” and “inattention blindness.” Cognitive distraction contributes to a withdrawal of attention from the visual scene where all the information the driver sees is not processed. In other words, drivers may look at an object, but not see it. Inattention blindness occurs when drivers are looking out the windshield and their view is narrowed. They do not process everything in the roadway environment necessary to effectively monitor their surroundings, seek and identify potential hazards, and respond to unexpected situations. Master Sargent of the Northern Region of the Public Affairs Division of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Joey Miller comments on what teenagers share about distracted driving and what they’re doing to be safer drivers. “When it comes to texting and social media, some teenagers are reporting they use the buddy system while driving. In other words, they are passing their phone to a passenger and asking them to respond.” Miller emphasizes the importance of setting a good example while driving, particularly in the family vehicle. “As an adult or parent, when you’ve got your family in the car, you need to act responsibly when it comes to driver distraction. We’re setting a guideline for them to follow whether they’re only in a car seat or they are a teenage driver,” he says. Parents may think their children are not paying attention to their driving habits, but Miller contends they do watch our example. “Whether we like to admit it or not, we can look at our children and see how much they emulate us,” Miller shares. Practical advice for drivers: keep eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and the mind focused on driving. Pull over to eat, discipline kids, rest, use the cell phone, and enjoy the sights. Miller cautions, “It’s hard to believe, but just a second or two of distracted driving can result in life changing consequences for you, your family, or someone else.” nhtsa.gov nsc.org ghsa.org

“Distractions now join alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.” – National Safety Council Andrea Brown Ross is the assistant editor for DeSoto Magazine. She lives in Como, Mississippi

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notables | MELINDA MCGRATH

Keeping Mississippi Moving By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of MDOT

A childhood road trip inspired Columbus native Melinda McGrath to pursue a career with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, where she now serves as executive director. Growing up the daughter of a vertical contractor in Columbus, Mississippi, Melinda McGrath knew she wanted a career in construction. “I went to work a lot with my father. I learned early on the satisfaction that comes from completing a project,” remembers McGrath. “Plus, as a child I was absolutely fascinated by the roadway system on a trip to Atlanta, Georgia.” After completing her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Mississippi State University, McGrath began working for the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). “One of the first highlights of my career was the completion of a bridge I had designed,” recalls McGrath.” It was actually in Columbus, where I’m from.” 20 DeSoto

She would go on to serve in several capacities within the department, including project engineer in both the northern and southern districts and district area engineer over six coastal counties. “I really had fun being a part of the development of our safety asset plan. As we analyzed crash data and identified patterns, we were able to create and engineer designs which saved lives. It was very rewarding,” she shares. But for McGrath, the greatest sense of accomplishment came as she participated in the recovering efforts following Hurricane Katrina. In 2003, she was named assistant chiefengineer-field operations. “As we rebuilt Highway 90 and several bridges, as lives began being restored, and citizens began to enjoy a better


quality of life, it had the greatest impact on me personally,” says McGrath. She was promoted to the position of deputy executive director/chief engineer in August 2008 as noted on the MDOT website. The three-member, elected Transportation Commission appointed her executive director in January 2012. With more than 3,000 employees, day-to-day operations are busy. Returning phone calls and letters of concern from constituents, internal staff meetings, meetings with federal administration and state legislators regarding bills which may impact the department, and safety meetings with the Mississippi Highway Patrol comprise a typical week. “One of our biggest challenges is that we have more needs than dollars,” explains McGrath. “Transportation is the backbone of our economy. With the recent completion of I-269 in north Mississippi, not only did we provide more than 100 jobs, but we’re seeing an increase in commerce and trade in that area.” Adhering to federal guidelines and looking at the needs statewide, McGrath and her department must prioritize and then proceed. “In our state, we have unique circumstances. While we have hurricane evacuation routes in the southern part of the state, we must also consider that we have an Amish community in another part of the state. The safety of our citizens on the road is a real concern whether they are in a horse and buggy or motorized vehicle,” she explains. “Another factor we must consider is that we are a rural, agriculture state. So many of our county bridges were built during a time when farm equipment and logging trucks did not carry such heavy loads,” elaborates McGrath. While the law dictates the weight load on area bridges, McGrath expresses the concern between education and enforcement. “We’ve got to strike a balance between truck drivers

being able to make a living for their families and not taking excessive risks,” she says. Thanks to the allocation of funds in a special legislative session in the summer of 2018, plans to address these unsafe bridges will be possible. With advances in technology, such as the use of drones in the inspection of bridges, McGrath believes this is an exciting time to be in the field of transportation. She encourages students who may be considering a career in transportation to consider what aspect they may be interested in… planning, designing, or construction. Are they interested in the private sector or becoming a public servant? She advises that being prepared through study and hard work will provide more opportunities and better pay. And what does McGrath do when she’s not helping the public keep moving? With three children, ages 14-27, and two grandchildren, she’s busy spending time with them, hiking, reading, or working in the yard. “We’re enjoying taking our 14 year-old son a weekend, or two, a month to see our state. Whether we’re attending a festival or visiting a landmark, it’s good to get out and appreciate what Mississippi has to offer,” says McGrath. From both a professional and personal perspective, McGrath has concerns for drivers traveling our state’s roads. “Driver distraction is my biggest concern. And keep in mind that a distraction doesn’t necessarily have to be electronic. With so many cars on the road now and our fast-paced society, we need to obey speed limits. Don’t become a fatality. Slow down. Be patient and courteous.” mdot.gov

Andrea Brown Ross is the assistant editor for DeSoto Magazine. She lives in Como, Mississippi.

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exploring art | PYSANKY EGGS

Ukrainian Pysanky eggs

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Ansley Larsson’s Pysanky eggs

Egg Traditions at Easter By Michelle Keller Photography courtesy of Michelle Keller, Larsson photos and Tay Morgan

An Easter staple, decorated eggs are found in many variations across the world. The timeless tradition is still a popular and sought-after art, and not just on edible eggs. Two Southern artists have found a way to make their colorful decorations more permanent. In an ancient Ukrainian tradition called Pysanky, eggs are decorated with traditional folk designs using a wax-resist method. Pysanky originates from the Ukrainian verb pysaty, which means “to write” or “to inscribe.” These designs are not painted but written in beeswax. Beginning as a pagan custom, the eggs were given as gifts full of symbols that represented a good harvest, good weather, fertility and other good fortune one might wish a friend or relative back when farming was a necessary part of survival.

Memphis-based Pysanky artist Ansley Larsson started with chicken eggs and then moved onto goose eggs and later even ostrich eggs. She says she was inspired to create the eggs by watching a Ukrainian woman demonstrate the art of Pysanky writing in 1980. “I thought it was the single coolest thing I had seen. I bought an egg from her, an instruction manual and all the supplies I would need to do it myself,” she remembers. Larsson explains that Pysanka is one decorated egg. DeSoto 25


Tay Morgan

“Two or more are Pysanky, Ukrainians don’t pluralize the same way we do in English,” she says. “For example, the tool that we use to write on the egg with beeswax is called a kistka, two or more are called kistky.” The Pysanka process is involved and takes time to create. When asked about the average amount of time it takes to create one egg she says, “This question is impossible to answer because the time required changes depending upon the intricacy of the design, the number of colors used and the size of the piece.” The time involved is one of the reasons that Larsson has moved from designing pysanky eggs to creating pysanky jewelry, especially earrings. “About 10 years ago I was at a show and realized how much better jewelry sells than eggs on a stand, so I decided to figure out how to make jewelry out of the egg shells. That is what I do now almost exclusively. I am having so much fun it’s ridiculous,” she explains. After decorating the eggshells, Larsson cuts pieces out using a Dremel rotary tool with a diamond cutting wheel. She covers the art piece in EcoPoxy, a non-toxic liquid plastic hardener that makes the jewelry durable. “If I had a very intricate design with three or four colors in it, that could take me two or three days just to put the design on the egg,” she says. “I started making earrings out of the eggshells about 10 years ago,” she notes. The traditional Pysanky method starts on the white eggshell, and each dye bath is darker than the previous one. It goes from white to yellow to orange to red to black. 26 DeSoto

Tay Morgan’s Easter Eggs

Explaining how it works, Larsson says, “We write on the egg with melted beeswax. It’s that simple. We write over the plain white shell and over the shell after it is dyed. The beeswax seals whatever color is under it so that when we change the color of the egg those lines will not change.” She also said modernization brought bleach and soaps that enable artists to use the colors in whatever order they choose opening the world of design to infinity. Larsson’s work can be found mostly at craft fairs. Her first spring show in Memphis, Tennessee, will be at Art in The Loop, April 5-7. She is scheduled for five more shows in 2019 including Nashville, Tennessee; Paducah and Louisville, Kentucky; and Atlanta, Georgia. AnsleyLarsson.com A FOREVER EGG For those who want a painted egg to keep forever, Tay Morgan Designs offers hand-painted solid wood eggs. Morgan’s Easter creations feature themes such as Baby Lamb, Baby Chick, and Baby Resting Bunny. Her eggs also can be customized with monograms, gold leaf foil and sorority and fraternity letters. Her Ole Miss and Mississippi State designs have become hot sellers. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Morgan studied art and says her maternal grandmother, Mimi, is responsible for her artistic and creative influence. “She always had a project going on at her house… painting furniture, painting Christmas ornaments, needlepoint, cooking, and painting original art. It was a fun place to visit and play growing up.”


Ansley Larsson

When asked about the color in her designs, the Ridgeland, Mississippi, artist says, “I have a loose style of painting and I love lots of color. I paint in mostly acrylic and acrylic mix but do dabble in some oil paints every now and then. I like the versatility of acrylic painting and am the most comfortable with that medium.” She doesn’t commit to a style or genre of art. “I feel like my style is ever-evolving, and I enjoy learning techniques from other artists,” she says. Ta y M o r g a n’s w o r k i s available in boutiques, including The Other Side gifts in Senatobia, Mississippi. Owner Anita Moore says, “Tay Morgan’s calendars and eggs are a must have every year. We have repeat customers who love to give them as gifts and keep one for themselves. Her artwork is beautiful and the scripture is encouraging.” TayMorganDesigns.com Michelle Keller is a freelance writer based in Memphis. She also writes for The Austin Times, On The Links Magazine and National Hardwood Magazine.

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exploring books | THIS IS MY SOUTH

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This is My South – The Essential Travel Guide Author: Caroline Eubanks Publisher: Globe Pequot Copyright: 2018 Suggested Retail Price: $21.95

This is My South By Mary Ann DeSantis | Photography Courtesy of Caroline Eubanks

If you are traveling across the South, you may want to pick up a copy of ‘This is My South’ for a comprehensive list of places to go and things to do. Travel blogger and writer Caroline Eubanks leads the kind of life most people dream about when they are strapped to desk jobs. Since graduating from the College of Charleston in 2010, she has volunteered in Thailand, sailed in Croatia, scuba-dived in on the Great Barrier Reef, and road-tripped throughout the South. Along the way, she found work as a freelancer and established two award-winning blogs that documented her travels. One of those blogs, ThisIsMySouth.com, led her to write a guide book, called “This is My South – The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States.” She started the book after she came home from working a year in Australia.

“While I was in Australia, I found that people had no idea what this part of the world was all about and if they did, they generally had a lot of misconceptions about it,” she remembers. “A guy I met there said he was surprised to see I had all my teeth. I wanted it to become a guide for people traveling from overseas, but it ended up becoming a community for people who live there to share their favorite spots.” The book covers 10 states that Eubanks considers as the South. “I know that is always up for debate,” she says. The states covered in the book are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In addition to an overview that even includes an DeSoto 29


Eubanks at Merle Wall - North Carolina

essential Southern playlist of songs, the individual chapters are dedicated to each state. Readers will find sections about “can’tmiss” landmarks, off-the-beaten-path places, foods to try, and unique accommodations. “With the ‘Unique Sleeps’ sections, I wanted to include the types of places I like staying,” Eubanks says. “Chain hotels are great, but they don’t give a sense of place. I wanted to support small businesses and provide experiences you might not find elsewhere.” She relied heavily on her own travels in the region as well as the resources each state had to offer, such as visitors’ guides. “I didn’t go to every single place, but I went to the vast majority,” she says. Food is an important part of the cultural experience, and Eubanks helps travelers find the most unique dishes in each state with her lists, called “15 Things to Taste.” Delta tamales top the list in her Mississippi chapter. “I certainly didn’t expect to love Delta tamales as much as I do,” she says. “When it came to the 15 Dishes, I tried to find a place within each part of the state that I covered. I looked for the dish that really signified that place. It was hard to limit to a few since food is what the South is so passionate about!” A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Eubanks has several favorite places in the South. “The Mississippi Delta is such a special place. It’s hard to describe its energy to someone that hasn’t been,” she says. “My sister spent the last few years living in Chattanooga, so that has become another favorite. It has a great food scene and does such great work in terms of sustainability. And I always have a good time in Louisiana, no matter what part of the state I’m in.” 30 DeSoto

Charleston, South Carolina, remains at the top of her list because of the years she spent living there as a college student. It’s also the place where she started her first blog, Caroline in the City, as a hobby. Eubanks chronicled her life in Charleston and how she spent her time. “People started asking me for advice on what to do in Charleston, which is probably what led to the rest,” she says. Today, the Caroline in the City blog is more general travel aimed at millennials. As with many young people, Eubanks had to leave her hometown and then return to really appreciate it. She was raised in the Atlanta suburbs and finds that is rapidly changing. “I thought it was so uncool growing up, but I’ve changed my mind. I also love introducing people to it because they’re always surprised,” she explains. “I think [Atlanta] is so underrated in terms of the art scene, the restaurants, and the overall vibe. The saying about Atlanta being ‘too busy to hate’ is true.” Atlanta’s airport also holds a lot of allure because of her travel and freelance career. She returned from South Africa in March and immediately headed to Memphis for a book signing at Novel. Traveling, she says, is not always as easy as it looks but it is definitely rewarding. Her advice for anyone about to embark on a trip: “Go with an open mind. Be willing to try any dish and gain new experiences.”

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Mary Ann DeSantis is the managing editor for DeSoto Magazine.


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southern roots | GARDEN PREPARATIONS

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Scott and Beth Haley, Southern Roots Nursery & Garden Center in Hernando, Mississippi

Sowing in the Sun By Karon Warren | Photography by Emma Claire Haley

How does your garden grow? If you properly prepare now, you’ll be enjoying the fruits… make that vegetables… of your labor all summer long. As the temperatures continue to rise, new life continues to burst forth in yards and gardens everywhere. And for many of us in the Mid-South, that means planting a summer garden that will reap fresh tomatoes, peppers, corn and more that will soon find a home on the kitchen table. Dependent on the weather, preparing your garden for summer planting should start taking place in March and into April. This is the best time to remove any weeds that could harm new plants, turn over the soil, and work in time-released lime and Triple 13 (13-13-13 as shown on packaging) fertilizer. Once these are added, let the garden cool off for threeto four-weeks, says Scott Haley, co-owner with his wife, Beth,

of Southern Roots Nursery & Garden Center in Hernando, Mississippi. However, if you didn’t get a head start on your garden, it’s not too late. You’ll just need to take care with what you plant, and be prepared to monitor and water a little more frequently as the days get hotter. If you are unsure what to add to your garden soil to prepare it for planting, you can take a soil sample to the nearest agriculture extension office, where it will be tested to determine what nutrients it has and needs. More than 100 land-grant colleges and universities nationwide have extension offices through affiliation with the USDA’s National Institute DeSoto 33


of Food and Agriculture. The Mississippi State University Extension service in Hernando offers routine soil testing for $8. In Tennessee, soil sample boxes and sampling instructions can be obtained from local University of Tennessee Extension offices or online at ag.tennessee.edu/spp. “It’s really helpful knowing what to add to your soil,” Haley says. Once your soil is prepared, you are ready to plant. When deciding what to plant, Haley recommends rotating your crops each year. “By putting a different plant in that spot, you’ll get some different nutrients being pulled from the soil,” he says. For instance, if you planted tomatoes last year, put in peppers this year. By doing so, the soil can stockpile the nutrients tomatoes need, meaning they’ll be available when you plant tomatoes in that spot next year. Haley says plants that yield well include Sweet 100 tomatoes (similar to cherry tomatoes), sweet banana peppers, chili peppers and jalapenos. According to the MSU Extension service, plants such as okra, beans, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and watermelon also will do well. “Peppers would be great,” he says. “Corn and beans could be OK in a smaller garden.” To help you find the right plants for your garden, check the tag that comes with the plant. For instance, Bonnie Plants, which is a very popular brand that supplies many local garden shops and nurseries with plants, includes a tag that clearly states how much sun the plant needs, how they should be spaced, and the planting depth required. It also provides a timeframe on when to expect the plant to mature. Also, don’t be afraid to try new additions to your garden. In fact, Haley recommends using an 80/20 rule for your garden: 80 percent of familiar plants and 20 percent of somewhat experimental plants. “It could be a hybrid of something you plant regularly,” he says. “See if it works better than what you have been using.” For example, many gardeners plant cucumber vines each year, but maybe this year you try a cucumber bush instead, Haley explains. You may find you have a larger crop or you prefer the taste of bush cucumbers to vine cucumbers.

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For those who don’t have a lot of space for a traditional garden, or maybe don’t want to invest in a larger garden, container gardening can be a great way to grow fresh vegetables without taking up a lot of room. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and even cucumbers do quite well in properly maintained containers. When choosing your containers, make sure they are large to allow room for root growth. Also, choose containers that drain well so water does not collect in the pot, resulting in mold or mildew on the roots. “You do have to water more often than in the ground,” Haley says. “[Containers] dry out so much faster. Beware it will wash nutrients out, so you’ll need to supplement that as well.” You can do this by using a plant food specifically for vegetables. Also, if the forecast calls for rain several days in a row, be prepared to move your plants under a covered space to limit water intake. Plants will need at least six to eight hours of direct sun in order to thrive, so choose a location accordingly for your containers, However, Haley warns against placing any plants (or garden) on the west side of your house, given the hot afternoon sun could burn plants. Having a garden filled with fresh vegetables is one of summer’s best pleasures. By planning ahead, you can enjoy the fruits, er, vegetables of your labor year after year.

Karon Warren is a freelance writer based in Ellijay. Georgia. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Karon also writes for FamilyVacationCritic.com as well as her blog, ThisGirlTravels.com.


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table talk | MISSISSIPPI BAR KITCHEN

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Mississippi Bar’s Pecan Pie

A Taste of the South… in Amsterdam Mississippi Bar Kitchen By Judy Garrison | Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern Photography

Nothing tastes better than Southern food… even in the heart of Amsterdam, Netherlands, where a Mississippi-inspired restaurant has become quite popular. “You’re not going to believe this,” I shouted to my husband in the other room of our 11th floor hotel room in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Flipping through a magazine found in every hotel room on the planet, I had spotted a full-page image of the Mississippi Bar Kitchen… only the restaurant wasn’t in Mississippi or even in the South. In the magazine’s section The Very Best Bars and Restaurants of Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Mississippi Bar Kitchen was described as a “laid-back restaurant” where

patrons can be “transported to the pre-industrial U.S. South.” Really? Then, it describes “Southern comfort cuisine,” listing familiar favorites like hushpuppies, gumbo, jambalaya, brisket, and could it be, crocodile burger. We must go! Since November 2017, the Dutch have been charmed by what we in the South know as mouth-watering, scrumptious eats that illustrate our culture. Our food accents life; it’s hard to experience one without the other. Moments like Friday night DeSoto 37


football and burgers, Saturday and college football with a side of barbecue, and Sunday dinner on-the-grounds with fried chicken and banana pudding define the South. And now, the South has come to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, taste becomes their introduction to the Southern culture. And for Arik Nahimov and the other three owners of Mississippi Bar Kitchen who each bring their own unique contribution to the mix, they hope that one taste will never be enough. Combining years of restaurant experience with design and culinary taste, the four have worked to achieve authenticity of concept and dishes. According to Nahimov, Mississippi Bar Kitchen had been an “idea in his head for quite some time about doing something different in Amsterdam.” He wanted “something authentic with a relaxed and open atmosphere but not hip. The idea was to serve food everyone understands and not come up with the latest fad that would be completely uninteresting after a few years.” It was Anthony Webb, an American who had been living in Amsterdam for 20 years that helped develop the restaurant’s convincing menu. “Anthony grew up in New York City eating soul food from his mother and grandmother’s kitchens,” confirms Nahimov. “He has fond memories of delicious church cooking parties on special holidays that, for him, defined what ‘food for your soul’ should taste like.” 38 DeSoto

And for Webb, he understands the complexities of Southern food. “It is a complex cuisine with American, European and African influences. It is rich, cultured and simple, all at the same time. It is focused on the perfect combination of flavors and textures.” Nahimov knows that “Southern comfort cuisine is new to Amsterdam.” However, when people uncover the African and European roots of the kitchen, he continues, the taste has been around for quite some time. “Our Chef, Sebastiaan van der Gulik is Dutch,” says Nahimov. “He has extensive experience in a number of restaurants and was able to understand the Southern recipes quite quickly after doing tastings with our resident American (Anthony) and following tried-and-true recipes from famous Southern chefs. We settled on the main parts of our menu after many trials, a few errors, a lot of extra pounds, and a result that was as close to perfection as we could get it.” They gathered as many Southerners as they could find and began to perfect the taste. “We’ve had quite a few Southerners in and are always super keen to hear their feedback,” says Nahimov. “In the first week we were open, two chefs visited from New Orleans and tried most of our menu. They were actually quite surprised to find that we had authentic dishes and were spot on with the taste and ingredients.”


Mississippi Bar’s Mississippi Mud

And the spot-on menu speaks volumes. With a “perfect balance of authentic Southern cuisine,” Mississippi Bar Kitchen features Louisiana stews likes Jumbo Gumbo and Jambalaya, and for the smoke lover, Memphis Dry Rub BBQ Smoked Chicken or Smokehouse Nachos with a Mint Julep to cool things off. And it can’t be Southern without pecan pie, collard greens, mac n’ cheese and cornbread. If it’s vegetarian or vegan you require, they have that, too. Nahimov’s favorites, however, are Coca-Cola Ribs and Chicken in a Basket. And you can’t have the food without the feel. With the interior a showcase of industrial and colonial influences, the indoor conservatory features wood furniture and offers the atmosphere of the pre-industrial South. “We have tried to get the small details right,” offers Nahimov. “The design and feeling within the restaurant were just as important as the food and drink and level of service. The reception has been quite strong with our Dutch and international visitors alike.” And although most Dutch people are unfamiliar with eats like hush puppies, slow smoked meats or fried okra, the popularity of this eatery is growing. With inspiration hailing from the Mississippi River and a Southern culture thriving on good food, Mississippi Bar Kitchen is opening the world’s eyes to what we in the South have known all along: nothing tastes better than Southern cooking. mississippibarkitchen.com

Judy and Len Garrison are freelance travel writers and photographers from Athens, Georgia. Known as Seeing Southern, they travel the world in search of the story behind the story.

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exploring destinations | MUSIC FESTIVALS

Groovin’ at the South’s Best Music Fests

The WHAT stage at Bonnaroo

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The Main Stage at The Hangout Fest

Beale Street Music Festval crowd

By Jill Gleeson Photography credits: Bonnaroo photos by Alive Coverage Beale Street Music Festival photos by Brandon Johnson Hangout Fest Photos courtesy of Hangout Fest

You can feel it in the air: Summer is on its way. Along with the rising temperatures comes another of the South’s best traditions: the music festival. While there are outstanding music festivals spread across the country, the ones found below the Mason-Dixon line are extra special. After all, pretty much every genre of American music was born here. It’s a great time to hop in the car and road trip to one – or all. Find the hottest music at these nearby festivals that have grown faster in recent years than the mercury rises on a summer afternoon. DeSoto 41


Beale Street Music Festival May 3-5 Memphis, Tennessee memphisinmay.org It seems almost inevitable that Memphis, one of the country’s best cities for music, should host a crackerjack, multi-day concert. Part of the renowned Memphis in May International Festival, Beale Street Music Festival was founded in 1977 and has only grown in stature since then, playing a crucial part in the revitalization of the city’s downtown. As Memphis in May Marketing Director Robert Griffin notes, “2018 saw just over 102,000 tickets sold for Beale Street Music Festival, with ticket holders coming from all 50 states and 22 countries.” Past lineups are a who’s who of the greatest musical artists of the era, such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Etta James, Fleetwood Mac, the Foo Fighters, Santana, and Jack White. The 2019 edition is sure to be just as thrilling with Dave Matthews Band, The Killers, and OneRepublic, among many others. Three day passes for BSMF begin at $135, perhaps the best value of any summer festival, especially considering its unique location. “One of my favorite memories is Post Malone’s performance on the Sunday evening of last year’s Beale Street Music Festival,” Griffin recalls. “It was our first sold-out Sunday in several years, and to see the thousands of music fans packed into Tom Lee Park overlooking the Mississippi River on a beautiful Memphis night, enjoying one of the nation’s hottest artists… it captured what Memphis in May is about: our city’s beautiful setting, great music in a music town, and people coming together to enjoy it all. We were all just music fans in Memphis.” 42 DeSoto

Hangout Music Festival May 16-19 Gulf Shores, Alabama hangoutmusicfest.com When the Hangout Music Festival kicked off in 2010, it was clear the new kid on the block was looking to compete with the legendary, multi-day Southern concerts, like Tennessee’s Bonnaroo. The first Hangout Fest was a smash success, bringing in some 15,000 thousand revelers each day to Gulf Shores to see performers like John Legend and Phish’s Trey Anastasio. The concerts were the draw, but so was the venue – a gorgeous beach on the Gulf of Mexico. “Hangout Fest is a vacation,” says Sean O’Connell, the festival’s director. “You come for the music and you get swept away by the beach and experience. There’s nothing like it.” According to Kay Maghan, public relations manager for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, 40,000 people now take to the beach every third weekend in May for the threeday Hangout Fest. The event continues to feature a rousing diversity of musical genres, from hip hop to rock, electronic dance music to bluegrass. There are plenty of other diversions – from a roller disco to a puppy kissing booth – if you can tear your eyes and ears away from the 75-plus live acts playing on five stages. Hangout Fest 2019 will offer the same kind of can’tmiss lineup as its predecessors, with Cardi B, The Lumineers and Travis Scott appearing. There are a range of ticket packages on sale now.


Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival June 13-16 Manchester, Tennessee bonnaroo.com With its hippie heart and jam-band love, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival owes an inspirational debt to Woodstock and other concerts of the 1960s and 1970s. Situated on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, the four-day celebration offers live performances on more than 10 stages, as well as an artisan market, comedy tent, yoga, a 5K run, parades, and much more. There is camping onsite, too, lending the whole thing a festive, familial vibe despite crowds that have topped 75,000. But Bonnaroo is most famous for the caliber of performers who appear; blockbuster acts in previous years have included U2, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, The Allman Brothers Band, and Willie Nelson. This year’s event will feature more than 150 acts, including Phish, The Lumineers and 2019 GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile. There are about as many ticket packages available as there are performers, and according to Brian Wagner, assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development, those tickets “are purchased in all 50 states and more than 40 countries, making Bonnaroo a global event. For nearly 20 years, Bonnaroo has featured the biggest acts in music along with up and coming artists in a setting featuring art installations and the natural beauty of Manchester for an experience that could only be made in Tennessee...We are proud to have Bonnaroo as a valuable tourism asset in Tennessee.” Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist who has written from Woman’s Day, Country Living, Washingtonian, Gothamist, and more. Find her at www.rebooted.com.

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on the road again | CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI

, u a e d r a r Cape Gi

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8:30 Breakfast at Baristas Coffee Bar located in historic Marquette Tower. Enjoy one of their handcrafted iced coffees, smoothies, teas or lattes. Breakfast offerings include buttermilk beignets, avocado toast or breakfast bowl with Belgian waffle, fried egg, sausage and maple syrup. Breakfast is served until 2pm. 9:30 Hit the shops of downtown. Local shops and boutiques await with treasures for everyone. Antiques, jewelry, art, clothing, home decor and more. Enjoy the barges up and down the river as you stroll Riverfront Park. The paved walking trail is just over a mile and offers stunning views. 11:30 Tour the Cape River Heritage Museum. The museum includes history of the area along with a look back at the way life once was on the banks of the Mississippi River. Open Thursday Saturday. Noon to 4:00pm. Mid-March to mid-December. 1:00 Lunch at Port Cape Restaurant and Lounge located in one of the oldest standing structures west of the Mississippi River. The menu is large and offers everything from loaded salads and sandwiches to gourmet burgers and hickory pit barbecue. 2:00 Soak up the beautiful scenery on a drive to Bollinger Mill State Historic Site. Just 19 miles west of Cape visitors learn how wheat and corn were ground into flour and meal in the massive four-story mill that dates to the Civil War era. Nearby enjoy the Burfordville covered bridge, one of just four covered bridges that remain in Missouri. The rustic setting offers opportunities for picnicking and exploring along the Whitewater River. 3:30 Take one of the local driving tours. If you like history try the Civil War or African American History Tour. Or visit one of the 30 locations used as a backdrop in the 2013 hit movie “Gone Girl”. Rush Limbaugh fans will be delighted to discover the influences of the talk show host, who was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. As you meander through town be sure to check out the murals displayed throughout! 6:00 Dinner at Broussard’s Cajun Cuisine, which opened in 1986 by Barron T. and Kathy Broussard, who moved to Cape from Crowley, Louisiana. They brought delicious cajun recipes and a fun vibe to the area, and it remains a local favorite today. The menu has cajun classics like Étouffée, Jambalaya and Gumbo. If cajun is not your thing, burgers, salads and steaks are also available.

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To plan your visit:

visitcape.com baristascoffeebar.com portcape.com broussardscajuncuisine.com

Events:

Cape Farmer’s Market April 11 - November 14 Cape Farmers Market is an open-air market located on West Park Mall parking lot every Thursday April 11th thru November 14th, noon till 5:00 pm. Locally grown fruit and vegetables, foods, plants, flowers, herbs, baked goods, honey, soaps, syrup, meats, bison, and much more are available. Products are grown or made by the vendor selling them. First Friday with the Arts May 3 Galleries, shops and restaurants are open late the first Friday of every month to celebrate the latest in the local art scene. Special events and themes mix up this monthly event, which runs from 5-9 p.m. Cape Riverfront Market May 4 - October 26 Everything at the Cape Riverfront Market is locally grown and crafted, and people come from across Southeast Missouri to shop the stands. Find your fresh produce, flowers, crafts for your home and organic body products. The market also has a free demonstration every week and live music. The market opens for the season on May 4, and will continue every Saturday through October 26, lasting from 8 a.m. until noon. Air Festival May 18 - 19 Join us for the best air show in the Midwest that has been welcoming thousands of aviation enthusiasts to the area since 1995. This year’s event features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels®, Shockwave, Joe “Rifle” Shetterly, Skip Stewart Airshows, Angel 9 Transam, Dream Photo and the U.S. Golden Knights with more acts being added.

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greater goods | EASTER DECOR

Easter decor

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1. Hand towel, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 2. Door hanger and carrots, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 3. Oxford Candle Company Candle, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 4. Napkins and napkin holders, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 5. Door Hanger, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Bunny flower pot, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. Jellycat bunny and book, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 8. Egg door hanger, Southern Traditions, 120 W Bankhead St A, New Albany, MS 9. Hand towels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 10. Easter decor, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS

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greater goods | FOR THE TRIP

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1. Vera Bradley Totes, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 2 Makeup bags,, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 3. Cinda b Luggage, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 4. Travel wallets, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 5. Travel games, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 6. Oak River Duffel Bag, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 7. Corkcicle handbag and backpack, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 8. Jon Hart Luggage, Paisley Pinapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 9. Bogg tote, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS

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EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISING WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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River cruising along Europe’s waterways has become one of the most popular vacation choices for Americans. You can see many top destinations without changing hotels every night,

but there are some things you need to know before you go. By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Tony & Mary Ann DeSantis. Aerial shots of the ship on the Danube were provided by Viking Cruises.

Passau, Germany -- the last stop on our Danube River cruise

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The stone castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192 overlooks the picturesque town of Dürnstein, Austria.

Jean and Evan Fleming of Fort Smith, Arkansas, are veterans when it comes to cruising along Europe’s famed rivers. They have completed three Viking River Cruises along Europe’s most picturesque waterways and are planning a fourth. The couple is among the 500,000 U.S. and Canadian residents expected to take a European river cruise in 2019, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. “Travel agents are seeing a 53 percent increase in river cruise bookings,” says Amy Painter, a travel professional with Cruise Planners International. “That’s a significant number.” The reasons, explains Painter, are simple. “It’s an ideal vacation for clients who desire new and different experiences, especially for those who have cruised on large ships,” she says. “They are immersed in the destinations they visit and they enjoy the smaller ships, which allow them to get to know other passengers.” River cruise ships are indeed much smaller than ocean liners. You won’t find the same amenities, like several restaurant options each night or big Las Vegas-type shows. Yet small has distinct advantages: You’ll have the chance to meet and get to know fellow cruisers, and the staff, too. You’ll likely be sailing with less than 200 people onboard, and the staff will know your name whenever you walk in the dining room or stop by the front desk. Viking longships usually dock in the heart of the cities so that guests can walk right off the boat and sightsee as much as they want and return to their rooms when they want. 50 DeSoto

Indeed, those were the reasons my husband and I were delighted to take our first Viking cruise along Europe’s Danube River last summer. An added benefit was getting to know the Flemings, who shared the tricks they’ve learned to make voyages rewarding and comfortable. “My advice to first-time cruisers is pay attention to the weather at your destination as you are packing,” says Jean, who has cruised twice in August and once in November. “For the cool temperatures, we packed clothes we could layer along with warm coats, hats, gloves and boots. We were never uncomfortable.” Aside from checking weather forecasts in your ports of call, you will also want to exchange a little money before leaving home. While most of your river cruise expenses will be covered, you will still need local currencies – usually Euros – for your personal souvenirs and for meals or snacks you decide to eat in town. After all, you don’t want to skip a chocolate torte and a Viennese coffee in Austria or a sausage in Budapest, Hungary – both premier destinations on the Danube River. The route along the upper Danube includes everything travelers to Europe hope to see: historic buildings and landmarks, majestic castles, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and scenic panorama views. See the sidebar story for a list of my favorites. River cruising offers travelers opportunities to explore the heart of multiple destinations in some of the world’s top destinations. It’s the ultimate view into culture and history,


Pork and sausage seasoned with Hungarian paprika are found on most Budapest menus.

and at the end of the day cruisers relax in luxury with exquisite meals and impeccable service – where everyone knows your name.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO ON A RIVER CRUISE

• Arrive at your ship’s departure city at least a day or two in advance. You’ll be glad to have the time to get over jet lag and not have to worry about unexpected flight delays. • Don’t rely solely on credit cards. Surprisingly, many restaurants and even a few museums in Eastern Europe did not take credit cards. The restaurants and shops that did accept credit cards insisted on a minimum level of spending. • Reserve popular excursions before you go, but leave some time to explore on your own. Viking River Cruises also offers guests a chance to book excursions once on board. • Do attend the ship’s lectures and briefings each evening. You’ll learn valuable information about the next day’s destination and about any itinerary changes. DeSoto 51


The Schonbuhel Castle marks the gateway to Austria’s Wachau Valley.

• Take more than one pair of walking shoes. I found it very comforting to switch shoes each day, sometimes more than once a day. For the cobblestone streets, a sturdy pair was perfect, but my feet needed a breather especially in the evenings. I packed three pairs, including Earth Origins walking sandals in the summer. If a winter cruise is in your plans, you may want to take lightweight boots. • The month of August is not an ideal time to go. Crowds in the major cities are overwhelming, the heat can be intense, and river water levels drop, sometimes forcing river cruises to adjust the itineraries. Prices, however, are often lower than peak periods.

DANUBE RIVER HIGHLIGHTS

The book Frommer’s Easy Guide to River Cruising names the Danube as the best for first-time river cruisers. Indeed, there were so many things to see that entire travel guides have been written about the sights, but here are a few of my can’t-miss favorites: 52 DeSoto

Hospital in the Rock Budapest, Hungary Carved into the hills of the Castle District, this maze of caves served as a secret hospital during World War II and during the 1956 Hungarian uprising. The one-hour tour leads visitors through rooms that still contain original medical equipment. Shoes on the Danube Budapest, Hungary This small, but extremely poignant monument honors the approximately 20,000 Jewish victims who were brutally shot along the banks of the Danube River in 1944-45 and whose bodies fell into the water below. While in the area, be sure to tour the inside of the iconic Parliament building. “Wine Not!” Wine Bar Bratislava, Slovakia Discovering Slovak wines was a surprising (and pleasant) experience. Wine Not! in the old town square has the largest


selection of Slovak wines, including the delicious Alibernet. Grab an outdoor table and people watch. Museum of the Danube Komárno, Slovakia This museum and town were unexpected treasures when our ship was rerouted because of the Danube’s extremely low levels of water. The town center was a great place to have an ice cream and listen to a local street musician. Café Leopold Hawelka Vienna, Austria Books have been written about the Viennese café culture, and it’s a “thing” to while away an afternoon. The secret is finding a café that is not overrun with tourists. We decided to head down Dorotheergasse, a side street off the crowded – and expensive – shopping district of Am Graben. Open since 1945, Café Leopold Hawelka has been operated by three generations of the same family. Only later did I learn the café had been a meeting place for Cold War spies, writers, painters, and actors, including Peter Ustinov and Andy Warhol. Gottweig Abbey Krems, Austria The over 900-year old abbey (founded 1083) is not really off-the-beaten path for tourists, but it’s worth an afternoon of exploration to see the art and learn how today’s Benedictine monks are making a difference. Be sure to taste the Wachauer Marille, a special Apricot jam made only at the abbey. Schönbrunn Palace Vienna, Austria The former royal residence of the imperial Hapsburg family is an amazing walk through history, but be sure to leave time to walk through the spectacular gardens. The palace has an admission fee, but the gardens are free to explore.

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Mary Ann DeSantis is the managing editor for DeSoto Magazine.

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F l o r i d a’ s

s y e K r e h t O

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Cedar Key, Dock Street from Water

When people hear “Florida Keys,” they automatically think of the picturesque islands that stretch south of Miami from Key Largo to Key West. However, the Sunshine State has other keys that can be just as much fun as the southernmost ones – and a lot less expensive.

By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography credits: Cedar Key Photos: Mary Ann & Tony DeSantis; Perdido Key Photos: VisitPerdido.com; Lido Key/St. Armands Circle photos courtesy of VisitSarasota.com.

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Perdido Key boardwalk

Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast

Not all of Florida’s islands that include “key” in their names are part of the famous coral cay archipelago that forms the southernmost portion of the continental U.S. After all, keys are sandy, low-elevation islands that form on top of coral reefs or sandbars, and can be found anywhere there is a tropical environment. The Spanish called them “cayo,” which means key. We explored several in the Gulf of Mexico and found them to be the keys for unlocking a perfect vacation.

PERDIDO KEY FLORIDA PANHANDLE

At Florida’s far western boundary lies Perdido Key, home to the state’s whitest sand thanks to the Gulf Island National Seashore. With azure water and a name like Perdido Key, people often think this island is in south Florida, but it’s actually a few miles from Pensacola via Highway 98 and the famed Blue Angel Parkway. In Spanish, the name Perdido means “lost,” and indeed this island is the place to lose your cares and stress. In addition to beach time at the pristine Johnson Beach on the National Seashore (where a weeklong pass is $15 for a carload), outdoor enthusiasts will find miles of hiking trails at Big Lagoon State Park and Perdido Key State Park. The Perdido Kids Park also keeps the little ones entertained. Fishing, kayaking, and beach 56 DeSoto

exploring are the biggest draws to this 16-mile strip, which USA Today named “Best Beach in Florida” in 2015. Perdido Key is often mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Flora-Bama Bar & Restaurant, which sits on the Florida-Alabama state line. Open since 1964, the Flora-Bama has been the setting for songs and books, but it’s the oysters and live music that make the waterfront grill a memorable stop. If you grow weary of seafood, head to Jellyfish Restaurant on the second floor of the Villaggio Shopping Center for the smoked meatloaf. While the seafood, fish tacos, and fried green tomatoes at Jellyfish are awesome, it was the meatloaf that my family talked about long after we were home. In Case of Rain: While the beach is the biggest draw, Perdido Key has plenty to do when you want a beach break or if it rains. The National Naval Air Museum, just over the bridge toward Pensacola, is a must-see, especially for Blue Angel fans. In fact, check the schedule because the elite Navy flying team practices on Tuesday and Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m., and admission is free for both the practices and the museum. Where to Stay: Perdido Key doesn’t have chain hotels. It’s mostly vacation rentals and AirBnBs. Contact Perdido Key Resort Management. visitperdido.com


CEDAR KEY NATURE COAST

The Cedar Keys – a cluster of small islands – epitomize the area’s nickname ‘nature coast.’ Hiking, birding, fishing, kayaking, and just enjoying the outdoors bring people to the area all year. The area has become a source of inspiration for Florida wildlife photographer Richard Wise, owner of NatureWise Photo Images. “People who are nature oriented will appreciate the area,” says Wise. “I photograph there because of the variety of wildlife, and especially for the many species of birds. I like the Old Florida aspect of the town, but all the keys are wonderful.” The historic town of Cedar Key is actually located on Way Key, the largest island in the Cedar Keys cluster that are located on Florida’s Big Bend. The town is one of Florida’s most vibrant arts communities with an array of galleries, including a quilting shop. My first stop DeSoto 57


Shore Shopping in Lido Key

is usually the Cedar Key Arts Center, an artists’ co-op that features an eclectic assortment of vases, jewelry, fiber arts, paintings, photographs and more. A trip isn’t complete without tasting Cedar Key’s signature dish: clam chowder. In 2009, Tony’s Seafood Restaurant won the Annual Great Chowder Cook-off in New England. Amazingly, Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder beat the New Englanders again in 2010 and in 2011, and won a chance to retire the recipe in the Cook-off Hall of Fame. For a behind-the-scenes look at Cedar Key’s clam industry, sign up for the “It’s a Whole ClamLife Tour” at the Southern Cross Sea Farms on State Road 24. Tours begin at 1 p.m. on Fridays from November through May. In Case of Rain: Duck inside the Cedar Key Historical Museum and you’ll understand the town’s importance to Florida history. Many people are surprised to know the Civil War reached Cedar Key when Union troops blockaded all of the Cedar Keys and a battle occurred on the mainland. Later, two pencil companies were drawn to the area because of the numerous cedar trees and established saw mills. Red cedar slats for pencils were shipped to pencil companies in the North and 58 DeSoto

in Europe. The most important development may have been the formation of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge in 1929. Today, the area is known for its pristine wetlands and wildlife as much as it is for food, art and tourism. Where to Stay: The Island Hotel, built in 1859, is chock full of history, maybe a few ghosts, and an exquisite dining room serving some of the best seafood on the island. Jimmy Buffett even played there during his early days in Florida. Another option is the charming Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast. cedarkey.org

LIDO KEY SARASOTA BAY

If you are looking for something more bustling than just pristine beaches and lush nature walks, head to Lido Key, where you will find more than 140 upscale shops, restaurants, and art galleries in St. Armands Circle. You’ll also discover beautiful beaches within walking distance of the circle. Lido Key is a short drive across the Ringling Causeway from downtown Sarasota and one of six keys along the Sarasota coastline.


Circus magnate John Ringling named the key because he was such a fan of Italian culture and the Italian word “lido” means beach. It’s hard to miss the Italian Renaissance influence that Ringling loved. More than 30 marble statues circle the St. Armands area, which Ringling designed in the early 1920s as a planned development community. The 1929 stock market crash interrupted Ringling’s plans, but the area has become one of Florida’s most beloved destinations. Today, Lido Key is known for ecotourism and sunset cruises as well as white sand beaches. It’s the place to go for deep sea fishing, dolphin watching and sailing. And when you are tired of the beach, don’t miss the shopping on St. Armand’s Circle. Be sure to try the fabulous restaurants, including Florida’s iconic Columbia Restaurant established in 1905 and known for its Spanish/Cuban cuisine or the Crab & Fin for its fresh, local seafood. In Case of Rain: Cross back over the Ringling Causeway to the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. Founded in 1955, the aquarium features touch tanks, a 135,000-gallon shark habitat and laboratories where visitors can see scientific research in action. Or head a few miles north to the DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton where you can try on period armor and see artifacts from Hernando de Soto’s 1539 landing in Tampa Bay. This national landmark commemorates the first major European exploration of the South. Where to Stay: Lido Key has a variety of accommodations including hotels and vacation rental properties. Both Sandcastle Resort and Lido Beach Resort offer private beaches on the Gulf as well as other resort amenities. visitsarasota.com

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Mary Ann DeSantis is the managing editor for DeSoto Magazine.

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Cruising the

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G r e e k I s le s Story and photography by Debi Lander

Greece is the ultimate vacation when you are looking for history, culture, great beaches, and wonderful cuisine.

Santorini Archipeligo

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Mykonos Windmills

Mykonos Harbor

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Mapmakers must hate Greece: the country contains approximately 6,000 islands, but only 227 are inhabited. Cruising the isles brings visitors the richness in almost as many ways as there are Grecian dots on the map, including safe turquoise water, sandy beaches, adventure, mystery, romance, and the echoes of mythological Gods. Surprisingly, the trip can be easy on the budget, depending on the cruise company and length of itinerary. All the major cruise lines offer itineraries, but differ in their amenities and island-hopping style. Some move in rapid succession; others spend overnights in idyllic ports. Make sure the line you choose stops long enough at the destinations you want to see. (I picked Celestyal, the economical Greek line that docks overnight in both Mykonos and Santorini. Their schedule allows passengers time to linger for sunset dining atop Santorini’s cliffs or indulge in the famous nightlife on Mykonos without worrying about missing the boat.) All cruiseships provide island tours and excursions to archaeological ruins, beaches or shopping venues.

Mykonos/Delos

Mykonos may be the glitziest of the Greek isles; it is often compared to Spain’s Ibiza for its vibrant nightlife. The busy shoreline is lined with cobbled alleys, white stucco restaurants and numerous tourist shops. To reach rocky Delos, take the half-hour ferryboat ride from Mykonos. You’ll get the bonus of photographing the iconic Mykonos windmills in the distance. Delos is one of Greece’s most important archeological sites, famous as the mythical birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis, and a place of pilgrimage. Today, the island lies in intriguing ruins and its history humbles the many tourists who walk among the ancient relics and the Sacred Way. The most compelling feature remains the Terrace of Lions. Built in the seventh century BC, the lions honored the gods and acted as a symbol of wealth. The modern Delos Archeological Museum houses an excellent collection of pottery, mosaics, statues and the original, but wind-eroded lions that once stood in the Terrace of Lions. Replicas of the beloved marble lions replaced the originals in 1991. Delos is a haunting, desolate place, and well worth a visit. DeSoto 63


Milos Kayakers

Santorini afternoon sun

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Milos

Milos is the kind of spot that excites a traveler: few crowds, mysterious landscape, incredible beaches, and site of the discovery of the famous statue named Venus de Milos. Sarakiniko Beach, one of the world’s most-incredible beaches, was created by a lava flow. Centuries of Mother Nature’s powerful winds eroded the coastline forming mysterious and marvelous shapes. It’s a lunar-like white/beige landscape, like something from a Dr. Seuss book. The ecru colored mounds (not black lava) look like sand but hold firm, not squishy. The swimming water is as clear as any liquid you’d drink. Milos feels magical with colorful little Greek villages, ancient catacombs and panoramic vistas. For the moment, Milos remains a hidden gem. Most cruise ships do not stop there, but the captivating isle is bound to become more popular.

Santorini

Everyone’s seen classic images of Santorini: clustered, whitewashed, terraced houses clinging to high crimson cliffs – highlighted by marine blue church domes. Spectacular sunsets, black sand beaches, and legends of the lost continent of Atlantis add dramatic color and mystery to an already full palate. The volcanic island’s wow factor just has to be seen and experienced in person. The first glimpse will dwarf you. Santorini’s almost vertical cliff and its high, overhanging terraces look precarious. From the hilltop summit, even massive cruise ships look like toy boats in the harbor. Passengers disembark from tender boats at the main harbor, then choose the gondola, a donkey ride or a long hike some 885 feet up the zigzag path. The touristcentric village of Fira nests at the top of the gondola run dangling like a fish on a hook. An earthquake devastated Fira in 1956, but the persistent inhabitants rebuilt. Narrow alleyways and tight staircases squeeze between terraces of white stucco cave houses, small hotels, bars and restaurants. Visitors may push on even higher as the swoon-inducing views expand. The upper elevations dramatically showcase how today’s alluring vista resulted from a violent volcanic eruption around 1450 B.C. The large harbor underscores the vast amount of land sunken into the sea by the tumultuous event. Photos don’t give justice to this panoramic swoosh. DeSoto 65


Overlooking Sarakiniko Beach

Greecian fish

Pass your time taking photos, shopping and dining or consider sailing, snorkeling, swimming and hiking adventures. The lava-strewn trails amid steaming volcanic vents and sulfur smells attract hikers to nearby Nea Kameni. History buffs love Akrotiri, the archeological site unearthed in 1967. Sunset cliffside dining ranks as a nightly Santorini ritual – a memory made even lovelier by the sounds of live, traditional Greek music floating in the air. Without question, Santorini is one of the most romantic spots in the world.

Crete

The Greek island of Crete had one of the earliest civilizations – dating back to the Bronze Age. The Minoans employed skilled workers who built complex architectural marvels and created intricate artistic works. The Palace of Knossos, near Heraklion, provides the best look at Minoan society. The first palace, built around 1900 B.C., contained over 1,000 rooms, an elaborate drainage system, flushing toilets and paved roads. An earthquake destroyed it some 200 years later. Soon afterward, the immense structure was rebuilt, but fire later claimed it, too. The ruins were lost to the ages until excavations began in 1878. Between 1900 and 1929, Sir Arthur Evans led the controversial rebuilding of some palace sections. I appreciated the opportunity to see that work, and understand how the site may have looked in its glory. Guides recall the legend of King Minos, who ruled the palace, and the famed Minotaur he kept in the Labyrinth. Highlights include the royal apartments and copies of the unearthed frescoes, and the throne room featuring the original throne. Stop at the Archeological Museum of Heraklion housing most of the palace’s priceless artifacts. See the fragments of the original Knossos frescoes that provided scholars insights into the lost civilization. 66 DeSoto

Back on board the ship, Cretan dancers performed. Cultural entertainment is another added benefit of a cruise. The talented individuals displayed boundless energy and passion with high jumps, kicks, and spins at a dizzying pace. At the end of their performance, the audience joined in.

Corfu

If you follow the PBS series the Durrell’s in Corfu, you will delight in this island stop in the Ionian Sea. Here you can tour the palatial estate and retreat of Empress Sisi, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, the 19th century monarch of the Austrian-Hungarian empire in Europe. CULTURE & CUISINE Cruising the Greek isles provides an authentic taste of Greek culture, history and, of course, Greek cuisine. Always fresh and flavorful, Greek fare is another reason to visit. Specialties like stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki, spanakopita, Greek salads and a fabulous variety of olives spice up the menu. Fresh grilled fish and seafood are staples accompanied by Greek wine, especially the white Assyrtiko, and the traditional ouzo, licorice flavored liqueur. IF YOU GO Most cruises start and stop in Piraeus, the port nearest the capital city of Athens. Fly into Athens a day or two early to see the priceless antiquities in the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum and National Archeological Museum.

Debi Lander, a freelance writer/photographer and avid traveler, writes for AllThingsCruise.com and other publications. She is planning a December cruise to Greece. Her website is bylandersea.com.


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homegrown | CHRISTIE COOKIE COMPANY

Christie Cookie tins filled with cookies are a welcome gift

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Fresh from the oven, Christie Cookies are ready to customers at the 12 South shop in Nashville.

How Sweet It Is By Jackie Sheckler Finch Photography courtesy of Jackie Sheckler Finch and Christie Cookie Company

Travelers will tell you that a warm, fresh cookie keeps the weariness at bay while getting checked into a hotel. Supplying the gourmet cookies to hotels and airlines, as well as to the Augusta National Golf Club, helped make Nashville’s Christie Cookie Company an international sensation. When Christie Hauck enrolled at Vanderbilt University, he hoped to help lead the Commodores to a football championship. That sweet taste of victory didn’t happen. Instead, the young defensive back football player discovered his future in a different sweet field – as a popular cookie maker. The story goes that Hauck yearned for the delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies a neighbor had given him as a youngster. Through trial and error, Hauck hit upon a yummy recipe. Of course, his college friends and family were happy to be taste testers for Hauck’s culinary successes. “People kept telling him that his cookies were so good that he should sell them,” says Chrissy Cano, store manager

of Christie Cookies at 12th Avenue South in Nashville. “His oatmeal raisin cookies are what made him famous.” In 1983, Christie Hauck founded Christie Cookie Company as a simple storefront in downtown Nashville. One of his customers was the old Opryland USA Theme Park, which helped introduce more confectionary lovers to the soft and buttery cookies. Before long, the company had expanded into a thriving mail-order business with a faithful following for Christie Cookies in elegant gift packages and personalized corporate tins. Today, the Christie Cookie Company is headed by president Fleming Wilt. Fleming’s father Toby Wilt and Hauck were football teammates at Vanderbilt in the 1960s DeSoto 69


Along with its popular cookies, Christie Cookie Company also sells brownies.

when Hauck was ranked fifth in school history with 11 career interceptions. Toby Wilt made an early-on investment in his friend’s cookie business, and Fleming Wilt became involved through his father. Now the company produces more than 100 million cookies a year and employs 90 full-time employees, says Caroline Sloan, the company’s marketing manager. “We use the same recipes we started with 35 years ago, using only premium, real ingredients that are hand measured in every batch – no added preservatives or artificial flavors,” Sloan says. A major ingredient in the top-secret recipe is 100 percent pure butter, no cheaper alternatives allowed. No GMO. Chocolate chips come from sustainably farmed cocoa beans, raisins from California, pure bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, the finest brown sugar, cinnamon from Saigon, and exotic macadamia nuts imported from South America and South Africa. No substitutes, no shortcuts are allowed in the Christie Cookie kitchen, Sloan adds. “True to our Southern heritage, our gourmet cookies are a testament to our devotion and commitment to the heart of our craft.” That’s why the Christie Cookie logo features a rolling pin and spoon, and the company’s tagline “Hand Crafted. Whole Hearted.” “We love what we do and we make every cookie like we were making it for our own family,” Sloan says. Christie Cookie operates two Nashville bakeries. Sloan says Nashville has become “the home of country music and cookie legends.” Christie gourmet cookies and brownies are sold directly to consumers through the company website as well as through the two Nashville bakers, a catering division and a corporate gifting division. The company’s foodservice division sells to restaurants, airlines and hotels across the country and internationally. Well-known names where folks enjoy Christie cookies and brownies are Kroger, Pavilions, Tom Thumb, American Airlines and United Airlines. Christie is also the official cookie for the Masters Golf Tournament played every April at the Augusta National Golf Club. 70 DeSoto


Christie Cookies are tasty any time of day

“We make a white chocolate pecan cookie exclusively for Masters Golf,” Cano says. Since 1995, guests at Doubletree hotels have enjoyed warm Christie cookies upon arrival. “They are oatmeal-based chocolate chip with walnuts added (along with a few other secret ingredients),” Cano says. Christie Cookie dough is shipped to DoubleTree by Hilton hotels where the cookies are baked fresh to the delight of happy guests. “The cookie is shared with visitors at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in all of North American and the Caribbean,” Sloan says. “We celebrated the 400 millionth cookie in 2018. We think that’s a true testament to its love from visitors.” When holidays roll around, Christie Cookie gift tins are popular. “Every holiday season, we create and ship more than 125,000 gift tins on behalf of consumers and corporations,” Sloan says. “Our cookies have traveled as far away as Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Japan.” There’s a different cookie flavor of the month, including white chocolate cherry, chocolate chunk, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, white chocolate macadamia nut, Southern butter pecan, cran-apple oatmeal, peppermint delight, triple chocolate blonde and more. The best seller? Chocolate chip. Working at Christie Cookie Company, Sloan says she always looks forward to the seasonal flavors. “In the summer, I love our lemon white chocolate and, in the fall, I love our rocky road,” she says. “My craving changes daily. They are all so amazing … Our hope is for everyone to try a Christie Cookie.” christiecookies.com

An award-winning journalist, Jackie Sheckler Finch loves to take to the road to see what lies beyond the next bend.

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southern gentleman | PACKING TIPS

Packing Like a Pro Story and Photography by Jason Frye

What do you really need to take on your next vacation? Not as much as you think! If anyone should know how to pack a suitcase, it’s a travel writer. I’m ashamed to admit that after a decade of writing about getaways across the South and around the world, I am a terrible packer. But I’m getting better. Once upon a time I’d bring everything with me on a car trip, even an overnighter – sneakers and hiking boots and flip flops and a nice pair of shoes, my pillow, extra jeans in case I spilled on the current pair, plus a cooler, my backpack/camera bag, and enough snacks to open my own food truck. Lately I’ve gotten better, more efficient, and on my last trip to New York, I managed to pack for five days in a single Travelpro carry on. So, how does the “I’d better bring seven pairs of underwear for this three-day trip because you never know” packer begin packing like a normal person? Practice and public shaming; plenty of travel writers will chime in on the size and number of your bags, the proper method for packing, and provide you with loads of unsolicited advice. So, in keeping with tradition, here’s some unsolicited packing advice.

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Toiletries Packing toiletries as a man is easy. I need deodorant, the tiny toothpaste my dentist gives me, my hair stuff and some of my Munson and Brothers Beard Balm. It all squeezes – barely – into that tiny bag the TSA says we can use. The rest of it – Q-Tips, razor, toothbrush – it all goes into a separate bag. Ladies, I feel for you. I watch my wife struggle with paring her product, makeup, and nighttime ritual potions, lotions, oils, and rubs to a manageable number, then try to jam it all into that plastic TSA-approved bag. There’s little I can offer by way of help here, except one thing: ask your stylist for a big handful of shampoo and conditioner samples; they pack easily and have enough for a couple of uses. What to Pack Aside from the essentials – ID and/or Passport, cash, credit cards, essential meds and your phone (of course) – what do you pack? My wife always packs a scarf, one of the giant ones that somehow is both a scarf and a blanket big enough to keep her warm on the plane. I, on the other hand, always pack a book of poetry I genuinely intend to read but never do. Before you start packing, do your recon: check the weather, look at your activities and planned dinners, take a peek at your hotel/Airbnb/cruise ship to see if you can do laundry. All this info will help you figure out how much of what to bring. On our trip to Cambodia, we overpacked because we didn’t look into whether our ship had guest laundry services available. It did, and thanks to jet lag, I was up early and did laundry three times on our trip, meaning we could’ve packed half the clothes we did and still had extra. How to Pack Some swear by the rolling method – roll everything into tight little cylinders and jam them in your bag; the tight roll prevents wrinkles (other than the ones you rolled into the clothes) and allows you to efficiently use the space in your bag. Others are packing cube evangelists, saying packing cubes keep you organized and make packing and unpacking easier. I’ve tried both methods and they both work although they have their drawbacks. What works best for me is a mix of the two. I will pack all my undies, socks, and workout gear into a couple of packing cubes, then roll some items and place others – slacks, my blazer – neatly into the bag. On trips where there are multiple stops – say two days in Budapest before sailing the Danube – I will pack a couple of days of outfits into packing cubes, so when I arrive at my hotel, I can grab my few cubes and be ready to go.

Be careful what you pack, though. I’ve seen the TSA dig through a bag to investigate a suspicious nest of wires and batteries buried in a carry on only to emerge holding a personal massager, a situation I think everyone wanted to avoid.

Four Travel Must-haves 1. Water bottle For flying, I prefer my Kleen Kanteen or Sigg bottle. Both are aluminum, both have a wide mouth for easy filling, and both are sturdy enough to withstand being dropped or banged around. 2. Charger I carry an Anker PowerCore battery that has juice enough to charge my iPhone four times or my iPad twice. It’s small, relatively light, and has earned a permanent spot in my bag. 3. Carabiners I keep three Nite Ize carabiners attached to my bag. These S-shaped carabiners are handy for attaching a water bottle to my bag, holding hotel window shades in place, rigging up a laundry line, even hooking my backpack to my roller bag for easy transport through airports. 4. Spare ID I keep a photo of my passport stored securely on my phone and also in the cloud. I figure if my passport was stolen, I’d be able to speak with local police, provide ID on my phone or a computer, then get to a US consulate and (hopefully) ease the process of securing a new passport. As the author of three travel guides for Moon Publications, Jason Frye has traveled the world. When he’s not on the road, he’s writing from his Wilmington, North Carolina, home.

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southern harmony | ASHLEY MCBRYDE

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The Nowhere Girl is Going Somewhere By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Katie Kessel

As a young girl, Ashley McBryde knew music held her heart and her future even though a lot of people tried to tell her otherwise. Now, after years of hard work and lots of determination, the “Girl Going Nowhere” is right where she always dreamed she’d be. Ashley McBryde is a singer, songwriter, and musician on the move. In the past three months, she’s done shows with George Strait and Little Big Town, toured in England, Ireland, Australia, and elsewhere, and in February attended the GRAMMY Awards in Los Angeles. She was both surprised and honored when her “Girl Going Nowhere” was nominated for Best Country Album. “The whole experience was awesome,” she says, reflecting on the ceremony. “I was seated behind Quincy Jones who talked to me all night. It was wonderful!”

Kacey Musgraves ended up winning the category, but the nomination helped introduce McBryde’s music to a new level of music fans who weren’t familiar with her before. Her album showcased her soulful voice and unique ability to tell a story through a song. Every track paints a vivid picture from “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” to “El Dorado” to the title track she wrote in response to a teacher who, all those years ago, dismissed her dream of becoming a singer/songwriter. Emotion shines through with lyrics like, “Don’t waste your life behind that guitar. You may get gone, but you won’t DeSoto 75


get far. You’re not the first, you won’t be the last. You can tell us all about it when you come crawling back.” McBryde’s gift for songwriting comes from a willingness to dig deep and open her heart. She believes the best songwriters are great storytellers and over the years has watched and studied those who’ve come before her. “There are some great storytellers that I’ve been able to learn from,” says McBryde. “I’m a big Dolly Parton fan. She’s the master of telling stories on stage.” McBryde got her first introduction to music as a little girl growing up in Arkansas. She’s the youngest of six children. “I’ve always played music,” she says. “We can all sing, but not all of us play instruments. I’m the only one who really found that to be their thing.” She loved making up songs and playing the guitar and as time went on decided she wanted to do it for a living. Pursuing the dream wasn’t always easy with plenty of people ready to tell her she’d never make it. And yet, she never let anyone slow her down. “I always had this… I don’t want to call it a little voice… it was a big voice in my head that said this is what you’re going to do. And the only way you’re going to do it for a living is to keep doing it,” she says. She went to college to study music education, but soon dropped out and moved to Nashville. She spent the next 11 years writing songs and performing in bars in Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and other places throughout the South. “There were lots of times where I felt like, what the hell am I doing?” she remembers. “I’m a human jukebox. But then I’d ask myself, is there any other place you’d rather be on earth right now than behind your guitar in a bar? And the answer was always no.” As she performed, she built a steady fan base and in 2016 released an EP called “Jalopies and Expensive Guitars.” One song called “Bible and a .44” began getting some attention with its eloquent portrayal of her father, a man known for carrying a Bible and a .44 and 76 DeSoto


who taught her some of life’s greatest lessons. Artist Eric Church even called her up on stage during a show in Chicago to sing the song, and he sang along with her. Then last year, Warner Brothers Nashville released “Girl Going Nowhere,” and things suddenly started taking off for McBryde. Major artists began calling and inviting her to go on tour. It all culminated in December with word of the GRAMMY nomination. Life has been a whirlwind ever since. But now McBryde is ready to focus on her next album. She and her band will head back into the studio in May. “I’ve spent a bunch of time writing and trying to get the second album kind of finished and I’ll do more of that this month,” she says. “That’s our big focus this year, making that second album. It’s very exciting for us.” It’s almost hard to imagine how far she’s come since those early days in Arkansas. It’s been a long journey, but a meaningful one. And McBryde is grateful. “It’s been the most beautiful journey I will ever go on in my entire life.”

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“I don’t want to call it a little voice… it was a big voice in my head that said this is what you’re going to do. And the only way you’re going to do it for a living is to keep doing it.” --Ashley McBryde

Pam Windsor is a Nashville-based journalist who writes about music, travel, food, culture, and extraordinary people.

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in good spirits | BLUEBERRY MOJITO AT THE GULF

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Always in Season By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of The Gulf

Seasonal fruits keep mojitos fresh all year long at The Gulf in Orange Beach, Alabama. It all started with kumquats. Victor Bobu, bar manager at The Gulf restaurant and bar in Orange Beach, Alabama, always mixed regular mojitos for his customers, a Cuban drink made with rum and muddled mint. But when a local resident brought him kumquats he decided to do something different. He created a kumquat mojito. The experience got him thinking. The restaurant used fresh berries in its desserts so he wondered if berry mojitos might be the next step. After all, fresh kumquats aren’t in season that long, neither are berries, so a seasonal mojito seemed like the perfect move; rotating fruit for the drink might keep the fruit mojito in business all year long. Which is exactly what happened. “And it went crazy from there,” Bobu said. Bobu now serves 35,000 mojitos each year at The Gulf, and the drink’s ingredients always depend on what’s in season, he said. His fruit drinks include the required fresh mint, Bacardi rum and whatever’s fresh at the market, which has included strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. And each drink is created new. “There’s nothing out of the bottle,” he said. Except for the alcohol, of course, which means Bacardi. It’s a fitting cocktail for The Gulf, a unique casual complex created from 28 renovated ship containers that includes a bar, restaurant and gift shop with lots of outdoor seating all facing the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to the Orange Beach location, there’s one on Okaloosa Island in Florida. Both daily drink specials and the food menu are posted on a chalk board, changing up regularly. The restaurant serves Gulf-caught seafood, raw items such as oysters and regional produce, keeping with the farm-to-table objectives. “Our food menu changes every day or almost every day,” Bobu said.

And if you think visiting The Gulf to enjoy a refreshing mojito and fish sandwich while gazing out on to the emerald waters and feeling the sultry sun bask your face sounds nice, think of how it would be to work there. “From March to November, it’s nothing but great days,” said lucky man Bobu. “I live on vacation.” Blueberry Mojito

8-10 fresh local ripe blueberries 4-6 mint leaves  3 lime wedges  1/2 ounce sugar cane simple syrup 1.25 ounces Bacardi Superior Rum 3 ounces of club soda Directions: In the mixing glass, combine the blueberries, mint leaves and limes, reserving a few of each for garnishes. Add the sugar cane simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Add a scoop of ice and the rum and give it a couple good shakes. Add the club soda to the mix, pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with the leftover fresh berries, a lime wedge and a few mint leaves.

Cheré Coen is a freelance food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, but her Mississippi roots run deep. Read her quirky stories at WeirdSouth.blogspot.com.

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exploring events | APRIL Spirits of the Passage: The Story of the the Transatlantic Slave Trade Through August 11 Two Mississippi Museums Jackson, MS Explore rare, firsthand accounts of loss and resilience from the unlikely discovery of a sunken slave ship. For more information visit twomississippimuseums.com/spirits.

44th Southern Heritage Pilgrimage April 5 - 7 Aberdeen, MS Ten magnificent Antebellum and Victorian homes will be available for touring. Cemetery Tours, Storytelling, Carriage Rides, Proper Tea and many other events are scheduled for a weekend of fun. For more information visit aberdeenpilgrimage.org or call 662-369-9440.

Natchez Spring Pilgrimage Through April 19 Natchez, MS Natchez, established in 1716, has more than 600 examples of Antebellum Architecture. During Pilgrimage seasons more privately owned historic homes open their doors than any other time of the year. For more information or tickets visit Natchezpilgrimage.com or vitinatchez.org.

Art in The Loop April 5 - 7 Ridgeway Loop Road Memphis, TN ArtWorks Foundation presents its 2nd annual edition of Art in The Loop featuring works in metal, glass, wood, clay, & fiber, as well as 2-D disciplines. You’ll also enjoy the fare of the town’s top food trucks, and performances of classical music by area youth ensembles. Art in The Loop will take place on Ridgeway Loop Road (between Briarcrest Avenue & Ridge Bend Rd.) For more information visit artworks.foundation or artintheloop.org.

79th Annual Columbus Spring Pilgrimage Through April 6 Columbus, MS home tours feature recreated activities of the 1800s, complete with period costumes, which add excitement and even more authenticity to this historic event. It’s an experience visitors will long remember! For more information visit www.visitcolumbusms.org or call 800-920-3533. Museum of the Mississippi Delta presents For All The World To See April 4 - May 25 Greenwood, MS Exhibition: visual culture and the struggles for civil rights. For more information visit museumofthemississippidelta.com or call 662-453-0925. Behind the Big House Tour April 4 - 6 Holly Springs, MS Hosted by Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs. Learn another side of Antebellum life. Cooking, brick making and more. For more information visit preservemarshallcounty.org. Lafayette County Master Gardener Association presents Spring Lecture Series First 3 Thursdays in April Theora Hamblett Room of the University Museum Oxford, MS Noon Free and open to the public. In addition to the presentations by noted speakers, attendees will also have the opportunity to win door prizes of plants and garden-related items. The theme for the 2019 series is “ Birds, Butterflies and Blooms.” For more information call 662-236-4088 or email sdsferg@bellsouth.net

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DeSoto Family Theatre presents “Singin’ in the Rain” April 5 – 14 Landers Center Theatre Southaven, MS For more information visit dftonline.org or call 662-280-6546. Hernando Arts Festival April 6 DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS 9:00am - 5:00pm Free admission. Food, art for sale, painting for children and more. For more information visit desotoarts.com or call 662-404-2465. Marion Countryside Ride April 6 Courthouse Square Marion, AR Choose your ride: 4, 14 or 45 mile. Registration, route maps and additional information at marionarchamber.org. Union County Master Gardeners 10th Annual New Albany Home & Garden Show “Dancing into Spring” April 6 Historic Downtown New Albany, MS 9:00am - 5:00pm Free admission. Horticulturists Jason Reeves and Felder Rushing will headline the educational program. For more information, please contact Pat Campbell at 662-316-2719. Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival April 6 - 7 Ridgeland, MS It’s springtime’s big event in Ridgeland with the annual


Art Wine & Wheels Weekend. Over the past eleven years, this exciting weekend in Ridgeland has grown to include fine arts and wine festivals with live music and great food, a 5K race, and a bicycle ride that brings in thousands of folks from all over the U.S. and the world. All the fun takes place at the beautiful Renaissance at Colony Park. For more information and event schedule visit ridgelandartsfest.com. Death Cab For Cuties April 7 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN 8:00pm For more information visit orpheum-memphis.com or call 901-525-3000. 3 Blind Wines April 12 DeSoto Arts Council Hernando, MS 6:00pm - 8:00pm 3 Blind Wines is a team competition to crown Desoto’s Top Wine Connoisseur. For more information visit desotoarts.com or call 662-404-3361. Cedar Hill Farm Annual Easter Egg Hunt April 13 - 20 Cedar Hill Farms Hernando, MS Enjoy a day at the farm; riding ponies, petting the animals, face painting and getting pictures made with the Easter Bunny. Egg hunts run continuously throughout the day. For more information visit gocedarhillfarm.com or call 662-429-2540. 50th Annual Crosstie Festival April 13 Cleveland, MS The Annual Crosstie Arts and Jazz Festival, a juried fine arts show, will feature hundreds of exhibitors displaying paintings, sculpture, pottery, fabric and paper designs, handmade furniture and jewelry. Extensive area just for children, live entertainment, a delicious variety of regional foods and more! For more information visit crosstiefestival.com. 14th Annual Mudbug Bash April 13 Panola Street Hernando, MS 6:00pm-11:00pm It is a festive Southern-styled outdoor event filled with great food, libations, live music and the spirit of hope. Mudbug Bash benefits the Palmer Home for Children, a non-profit organization providing stable homes for children with inadequate family structure. For more information, call 662-328-5704 or visit palmerhome.org.

Olive Branch Old Towne Easter April 20 City Hall Parking Lot Olive Branch, MS 11:00am-1:00pm Bring the children to Olive Branch Old Towne for photos with the Easter Bunny, games, inflatables, prizes, musical entertainment and so much more! For more information, call 662-893-0888 or email director@olivebrancholdtowne.org. Bonne Terre Country Inn Easter Brunch April 21 Bonne Terre Country Inn Nesbit, MS 10:30am-2:00pm Celebrate Easter Brunch at Bonne Terre with fabulous food, a kids cakewalk, an Easter egg hunt and photos with the Easter bunny. Call 662-781-5100 for reservations. For more information, visit bonneterreinn.com. Southaven Springfest April 23 - 27 Snowden Grove Park Southaven, MS Great entertainment, carnival midway including a variety of kiddie, major, and spectacular rides, games, great concessions and more. For more information visit southaven.org or call 662-280-2489. Greenwood Gravel Grind April 27 Greenwood, MS Join us on Saturday, April 27, 2019 for an off-road cycling tour of the “Most Southern Place on Earth”. 50K & 100K options. Mega party at Tallahatchie Flats afterward. Register at greenwoodgravelgrind.com. Call the Greenwood Leflore County Chamber of Commerce at 662-453-4152 for more info. 4th Annual Sultana Disaster Conference April 27 Trinity in the Fields Anglican Church Historic Courthouse Square Marion, AR Featuring a full day of local and regional noteworthy historical lectures. Tour the Sultana Disaster Museum. For more information visit sultanadisasterconference.com. Santana April 27 BankPlus Amphitheater Southaven, MS 8:00pm For more information visit livenation.com for more info.

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reflections | CHOOSE TO GO

Choose to Go By Judy Garrison | Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern

Wolfgang and Reginald walked right off that boat and into the city. I might not have believed it had I not gotten to know them earlier in the week. At ages 96 and 97, respectively, their English accents made every story recounted even more delightful and intriguing, even the one about bombs dropping from the sky over London in the 1940s. Dressed to the nines every day, they were on a mission to see, learn and understand every country, city and person that crossed their paths during this 8-day trip down Europe’s Rhine River. Aboard the Viking Longship Alruna in December, I enjoyed the holiday season more than I had in years. Amazing food. Inspirational culture. Awe-inspiring history. Delightful people. Being isolated from the world’s events, our excursions and ship time rejuvenated my tired soul. Then, there was Strasbourg. Two days before our docking, a gunman walked through the largest Christmas market in France, shouted the familiar Arabic phrase, killed two innocents, and wounded a dozen more. Needless to say, Viking scrambled as to what to do with the ship’s scheduled stop in Strasbourg. Might I add, they scrambled well, never skipping a beat. An impromptu trip to Freiburg would replace the French market. They quickly gathered the buses, loaded all of us who wanted to go, and off we went, crossing Germany’s river border, away from the police presence, away from the gunman still at-large, away from the fear. Everyone, except Wolfgang and Reginald. Part of me questioned their tenacity, but most of me admired them. Given 82 DeSoto

the choice, they chose to go into the city, not wanting to miss what they had come to see. I suppose the world will always find a way to interrupt the life we are living. For the good or bad, these moments change us. This moment was the closest I had ever come to terrorism, but as long as I travel, I’m guessing it won’t be my last. Even though there was an air of uneasiness looming that day, among other emotions, I felt safe. I also felt gratitude to those who stood with guns drawn, opening doors of uncertainty, in an effort to protect those they didn’t know. I mourned for those who would not go home that night, and I felt anger for a stranger’s senseless actions that had trickled all the way down to me—a woman from Georgia who was a passenger on a river cruise along the Rhine River in Europe. And then I remembered Wolfgang and Reginald and their enriched and accomplished lives, and I felt inspired. What would their lives have been like had fear stopped them in their tracks when bombs fell from London’s sky? The unseen places. The untold stories. I choose to go. A tad bit of fear promises to keep me on my toes, but I will not let it lead the way. I choose the enriched life that only walking off the boat and into the city guarantees.

Judy Garrison is a freelance travel journalist and photographer from Athens, Georgia. Known as Seeing Southern, she travels the world in search of the story behind the story. Follow her travels at seeingsouthern.com.


Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine April 2019  

PACK YOUR BAGS! It’s DeSoto’s 2019 “Travel & Destination issue! Explore Greece, European River Cruises, Florida’s “Other” Keys, Music Festiv...

DeSoto Magazine April 2019  

PACK YOUR BAGS! It’s DeSoto’s 2019 “Travel & Destination issue! Explore Greece, European River Cruises, Florida’s “Other” Keys, Music Festiv...